Who am I?

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I am not religious, but I don't mind calling myself spiritual. Religion, I believe, has, over the millennia, been used as a prop to perpetrate a lot of human suffering. Faith is what matters. I don't believe in the definition of God as a creator. According to me, my God resides within me. Some call it conscience, some call it the sub-conscious, some call it the soul. I don't mind calling it God. So by definition I am not an atheist or an agnostic, but by essence, I may as well be. My God does not reside in a temple, church, mosque or gurudwara. It is right here, within me.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Infotainment - Fodder for the Gullible

“Mass hysteria is sweeping across India's capital after reports of a super-powered monkey man, with hairy body and sharp metal claws, attacking people as they sleep on their roofs in the sweltering heat.” This is what an online newspaper read on 15th May, 2001. I vividly remember the incident, as I was into my teen years with some amount of awareness of issues – at least of the spicy ones. The topic was a rage in my school. The debates that I had with my friends mostly centered on the repercussions and the meaning of the presence of a hairy monster amongst the inhabitants of the most important city of the country. Seldom did we dwell on the authenticity of these attacks. The “monkey man attacks” got plenty of spot-light with the major dailies providing much of the front page space to the news items of the bizarre phenomenon gripping the capital. Soon, like everything else, the hysteria died down and the story moved to the back pages. A few months later, I remember reading a news item which said that the monkey-man was partly a figment of imagination of people with self inflicted injuries and was partly a rumour that spread like wild fire, encapsulating several fabrications and concoctions. The only strange thing about that news item was that it did not cover a space more than 2-by-4 inches and was safely ensconced in the deepest recesses of the newsprint, away from public scrutiny. That was the first day that I noticed the biased role of media in our lives.

Since then I have been constantly aware of and acutely pained by the partisan attitude adopted by most of the print media as well as its electronic counterpart. What we see these days is mostly infotainment – fodder for the parasites looking for “spicy stuff”, something which can give them goose bumps – the extent of its veracity notwithstanding. This is something we saw again when swine flu broke out a few months ago in parts of the country. The media had found its new bestseller. The reports on how swine flu was the “new epidemic” inundated the front pages of the (regrettably) leading newspapers of the country. The up side is that it created a certain amount of awareness among the citizens about the flu. But that was not the ulterior motive of the media. It was sales. And moreover, most of the knowledge regarding the flu that was spread through the newspapers was often misleading, mostly incorrect. The people of the country did what Indians do amidst such hysteria – they panicked. Swine flu was touted as the next big thing – something which could wipe out humanity within the next few years. It turned out to be a magniloquent statement, which was correctly punctured in the ensuing weeks. The hullabaloo turned out to be an empty vessel which made more noise than it was supposed to.

Today, the news of the swine flu, just like the monkey-man uproar, has seemingly left the salubrious environs of the front pages and has acquiesced to blend with the nonentity of the middle pages. It does not come as a surprise to me. But what confounds me to this day is the fact that the newspapers and the news channels that place values over market-share, principles over TRP ratings, have much lower sales than the ones that honestly believe that infotainment is the ultimate tool to fool the gullible customer. I sincerely hope that the Indian public strongly stands behind such paragons of uprightness and supports such morally empowered media houses with something more than mere acknowledgment.

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